Published by HarperTeen on June 7th 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…
Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…
Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.
The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?
When I read the synopsis for My Lady Jane, I mentally immediately filed it under “not my thing”. I don’t really enjoy historical fiction set in the Tudor era and books about royalty are usually a miss as well. Also, all the reviewers described this book as extremely funny; again, not really what I’m normally interested in.
But then more reviews started rolling in and some of my GR friends personally recommended it to me. I got interested and decided I would pick it up whenever I needed something that would put me in a good mood.
And here’s the thing: My Lady Jane is one of the most self-aware books I have ever read. It sets out with a specific goal in mind and delivers on that. It doesn’t take itself seriously, but embraces its own ridiculousness. And in that it is refreshingly different from other YA books. It’s a silly, light-hearted but entertaining historical comedy, not more and not less.
My Lady Jane is a historical reimagining of the story of Lady Jane Grey, a retelling, that very much takes its liberties when it comes to historical accuracy. For instance, instead of the divide between Catholics and Protestants, the authors add in some magic and make it into a war between Verities and Eðians, the latter being humans that can shapeshift into an animal form. In this world, we have Lady Jane Grey who is forced into an unwanted marriage by her king and cousin, King Edward. But things don’t exactly go as planned.
And indeed, as I started reading, I thought it was hilarious. The prologue immediately got my attention, with the authors setting the story’s promise and making clear what the reader could and could not expect from the book. That gentle breaking of the 4th wall and contemporary pop culture references had me giggling out loud. It was great.
So what was my issue then? I guess that for a reader like me, that just wasn’t enough. I think many (or perhaps most judging by the reviews) readers will enjoy this book a lot. For me, however, the humour got old after a while, and when that humour is pretty much the novel’s only strength (there is one other mentioned below), that is a problem. There are only so many nose jokes I can take.
The novel is stuffed full of clichés and tropes that weren’t made fresh or interesting in any way. The characters are incredibly flat and two-dimensional; never moving away from that initial stereotype. I had no attachment to any of them and thus also wasn’t invested in the story. Jane’s love of books should have been endearing to me as a booklover but it was so completely over-the-top that it made me roll my eyes repeatedly. Lord Gifford was both predictably handsome and boring with absolutely no substance to him. Also View Spoiler »why on earth didn’t he tell Jane about the poetry readings?? She’s a booklover for God’s sake, did he actually think she’d be more embarrassed/annoyed by that than the idea of him having “dalliances”? Such a stupid way of building tension through miscommunication. « Hide Spoiler Edward is a little boy who knows nothing about nothing and reading about his love life made me cringe so badly. Gracie, though likeable in her feminist ways, was your typical kick-but heroine who rescues the “hero” and about as original as all of YA’s other special snowflakes. View Spoiler »And I still don’t understand why on earth she fell in love with Edward. « Hide Spoiler
Unsurprisingly, the plot felt contrived to the point of nonsense and random elements flew in from nowhere (I mean really, what was up with the freaking bear?). Plot turns (they don’t deserve the title of “twists”) were so convenient is was laughable (which I realise is the whole point of the story but still UGH!) View Spoiler »naturally it would turn out that both Jane AND Edward are Eðians just when they are about to be killed. « Hide SpoilerThe reader never feels any sense of peril for the characters and it made the second half of the novel so very boring.
There was one other thing I did like, however, and that was the way the authors mocked the sexist attitudes and societal norms of the Tudor era. I wish it would have been slightly more subtle but considering that this book is everything BUT subtle, I knew this would be the best that I would get and took it in stride.
So ultimately, despite my good intentions and correct expectations of this book, it still didn’t really work for me. I fully acknowledge that this is most likely a “it’s me not you” situation, but once the jokes started repeating themselves there was just nothing left to keep me going. I give the authors major credit for taking a risk and trying something unique and pushing readers out of their comfort zone. I just needed more.
I still totally recommend this book despite my lower rating. If you enjoy books that are a bit less serious, do give it a try. Also, I highly recommend the audiobook. The narrator is phenomenal and I honestly don’t think I could have finished the book without her fantastic narration.